Novel strategy for durable Didymella resistance in cucumber

Projecttitel: Novel strategy for durable Didymella resistance in cucumber
Projectnummer: LWV19043
Missie: Sleuteltechnologieën
MMIP: ST2 - Biotechnologie en veredeling
Looptijd: 2020 – 2023
Projectleider: Gerco Angenent

A main aspect of circular agriculture is the reduction of unnecessary losses in the food chain. Substantial food losses occur through crop diseases caused by pathogens and pests. Resistance or higher tolerance to these pathogens will reduce waste and furthermore, will reduce the use of environment unfriendly plant protection products. 
Therefore, we need resilient crop plants with durable resistance against the major threats.
 A devastating pathogen is the fungus Didymella bryoniae, which causes fruit rot in cucumber and related species (e.g. melon). 
The main goal of this project is to develop strategies for durable resistance against Didymella in cucumber. 
An innovative strategy will be followed by focussing on the entry of the fungus into the fruit and aim to block this entry point by modifying features of the stigma. 

In the first phase of the project we will investigate the growth of the fungus in the cucumber flower and fruit and search for candidate genes that are involved in features of the stigma/style and when mutated blocks the growth of the fungus. 
In the second part of the project we will modify the stigma/style morphology or functioning in mutant cucumbers and test their susceptibility for the fungus.
When pollination is also impaired in those mutants, we will develop alternative strategies to restoring pollination and reproduction. 
Resistant cucumber varieties will contribute to a more sustainable cucumber production, decreased use of fungicides and reduction in food waste, which perfectly fit within the Mission of a transition to a circular agriculture system.
From a scientific point of view, this project aims to understand how a fungus exploits the natural plant reproduction system of pollen germination and tube growth. 
Furthermore, it will provide knowledge about the requirements of the reproduction system of plants, a research field that is essential for plant breeders and intriguing van plant scientists.